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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Put On Your Dancin' Shoes, Your Rain Dancin' Shoes 

Rainouts have always annoyed me to a certain extent. You make a point to hurry home so you can catch the game by the third inning or so, and they're showing reruns of "You Gotta See This" instead. Then you're stuck at home with two options: network TV and reading. Yawn.

Starting in 1995 or so, I've had a better reason for hating rainouts. Now that the Mariners are (were?) a successful team, rainouts have usually come when the team has ripped off about five wins in a row. Then the game gets rescheduled for August sometime (we all know how well the M's have done in August recently), and it hurts us in the standings.

This year has been different. During that game in Texas, I was really hoping the heavy stuff would come down and the umps would decide to call it a night. I was rooting for rain AGAINST THE TEXAS RANGERS. Then I got home yesterday, turned on my Goodwill radio, and almost jumped ten feet when I heard "The Mariners are rained out tonight in Baltimore." Rain in Baltimore and Arlington. And I'm relieved. I think I can hear the Scorpions' monster ballad "Winds if Change" playing somewhere nearby...

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Sunday, April 25, 2004

NFL Draft Comments 

Devard Darling (Baltimore), Jason David (Indianapolis), Erik Coleman (N.Y. Jets), and Jonathan Smith (Buffalo) were all selected from WSU. Four Huskies were drafted, but one of them was Cody Pickett, so for all practical purposes there were really only three. Somebody was picked from every Pac-10 institution, save Arizona (pretty sad, huh?). Good luck to all as professionals.

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The M's! The M's! The M's Are On Fire! We Don't Need No Water, Let The M*#$%@F^$&@# Burn! 

The M's are, with today's loss, now 8 games under .500. The last time they were 8 games under, according to Dave Niehaus during today's radio broadcast, was the last game of the 1998 season. That was the year Randy Johnson was phoning it in before he was traded to Houston.

Nobody wants to see a forest fire. The once-beautiful landscape becomes scarred, and homes are threatened. Without the fire, though, the forest can not thrive. Dead wood is cleared out, and the resulting ash revitalizes the soil. The stage is then set for the forest to eventually becomes stronger than it was before the fire.

Maybe this season is the forest fire in the Mariners saga. All the fairweather fans that none of us can stand will be driven away (gosh, you might even be able to get good tickets DAY OF GAME again!). We're in a good position to start shopping for prospects in other organizations and loading up at weak positions (outfield and catcher come to mind). It's still too early to throw in the towel on behalf of the 2004 Mariners and go into fire sale mode, but it's never too early to test the trade waters for commodities that contending teams would covet. If, for example, Detroit or Cincinnati maintain their hot starts, both teams would consider trading quality prospects for a starting pitcher like Gil Meche or Ryan Franklin (Franklin could be pretty good in Comerica).

It's not time to panic, but if somebody makes Bavasi a great offer, why not take it?

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Dave Hansen, We Salute You 

Dave Hansen's pinch-hit homer tied the game at four in the seventh inning tonight. Back in '95, it seemed like Doug Strange hit about 30 pinch bombs down the stretch, but in recent years they've been few and far between. In fact, I don't remember for certain the last time a Mariner hit a pinch home run. Does anyone out there know for sure? It's been a while.

During Hansen's at-bat, he went to 0-2 immediately, and I said out loud to myself while scrubbing up some dirty dishes, "Ben Davis could have done THAT." And then Hansen gloriously proved me wrong.

Also, Tim Hudson got away with a FOUR PITCH INNING! in the fifth. Four! Here's how it went, courtesy of ESPN's Game Log:

Tim Hudson pitches to Rich Aurilia
Pitch 1: in play
R Aurilia grounded out to third.

Tim Hudson pitches to John Olerud
Pitch 1: strike 1 (looking)
Pitch 2: in play
J Olerud hit by pitch.

Tim Hudson pitches to Ben Davis
Pitch 1: in play
B Davis grounded into double play, shortstop to first, J Olerud out at second.

0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors
Oakland 2, Seattle 0
Whose brilliant strategy is this against Hudson? Melvin's? Molitor's? Or are they not even aware it's going on? It's practically giving the game away to a sinkerballer to hack away at the first or second pitch every time like this. Use your heads, fellas. Incidentally, you don't see a lot of low pitch count innings that involve hit batsmen.

This just in: three in the ninth for Oakland. Blech.

It ain't over just yet, though. Ibanez opens the ninth with a single...

2-1 to Aurilia. Dave Niehaus made a point to ensure a double play by mentioning that the team has grounded into five double plays so for in the game, tying the club record. Strike 2 called, 2-2. Dave goes into greater detail, giving the dates of the 5-GIDP performances. Swing and a miss. The jinx failed.

Olerud strikes out, two outs. No team records tonight.

It's all up to Dan Wilson. I think I'll just go now.

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Jon Wells of Grand Salami tells me that players were calling Villone "Pro Villone" during Spring Training. At least I can still claim Frank "It's Raining" Menechino as my own creation.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Updated the SA leaders.

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Ron Villone's Nickname 

During post-game interviews on the radio tonight, I've heard both Ryan Franklin and Brian Price refer to Ron Villone as "RV". To the credit of the RV nickname, there's some good imagery there, conjuring behemoth motor homes scooting the elderly across the wide-open spaces of America. If the best you can come up with is initials, then they have to have connotation. Still, just going by initials leaves plenty of room for improvement, and I thought I'd give it a shot. After a couple of minutes I was drawing a blank, but after saying "Villone Villone Villone Villone Villone" over and over as fast as I could inspiration struck. I would now like to submit for your consideration:

Ron "Pro" Villone

In Other News:
Incredible game tonight. The offense, aside from Rauuuuuuul, is definitely struggling right now, and the next two games are against Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, so it's not getting any easier. Here's the rub, though: Rich Harden and Mark Redman shut down the Mariner lineup. The best Hudson and Mulder can do is also shut down the lineup. In other words, they're probably going to score, at worst, four runs in two games, the same as in the last two winning efforts for the M's. They'll probably score more like six or seven. That could be enough to win a couple.

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Raul Does It Again 

Rauuuuuuuuul has hit three homers in three games. It seems like he's got the "five rows into the seats" shot down to a science now. The M's face real pitching again tomorrow, when Tim Hudson takes the ball for Oakland.

Ron Villone just had a ridiculously easy eighth inning. He's been impressive so far this season, but it can't last. Like so many of his characters, Ernest Hemmingway would have lamented the fleeting nature of Villone's mastery.

Bonne's up in the eighth, trying to avoid the sombrero (even Niehaus knows the sombrero; he just mentioned it). Strike one. Breaking ball, strike two. A bit outside, 1-2. 1-2 pitch is a pop up to the catcher. No sombrero for Bret. At least he's got the hat trick going for him, which is nice.

Tied at one apiece going into the ninth.

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My New Favorite Non-Mariners Baseball Blog 

...is now Waiting For Boof, a Giants blog. This line made my morning:
Neifi Perez -- who is like a fine European artisan, except he makes outs instead of handmade leather shoes
...and there's plenty more where that came from. Do give it a look-see.

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Win Three In a Row, And That's Called a Winning Streak 

A walk-off balk! That is freakin' incredible. I've seen a walk-off hit batsman, and now this, leaving catcher's interference to complete the unlikely trifecta. Someday...

Freddy was tough yet again. If he could just get three runs one of these times, he'd win a game here and there.

That's all the time I have tonight. Franklin's on the hill tomorrow. Good luck.

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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Heard on Sunday Night Baseball 

Whoever the lead announcer of the Oakland-Anaheim game is, he just told America, in so many words, how much of a MILF he thinks Mark Kotsay's wife is.

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The Mariners Win A Series! The Mariners Win A Series! 

With today's win, the M's won their first series of 2004, and although it was against the Rangers, I'll take it where I can get it. One thing I noticed was the excitement shown by two new acquisitions, Scott Spiezio and Eddie Guardado. I loved Everyday's (or, as my brother called him today, "Eazy-E") reaction to the win after he closed out the ninth. A polar opposite of Sasaki's relief just to get through the inning alive and well, Eazy was pumped, belting out a heatfelt "Yeahhh!" after recording the last out. And after Ibanez's 2-run job put the M's up by one, Ibanez kept his "just another game" balnk expression rounding the bases and upon returning to the dugout, where he was met by Scott Spiezio's enthusiastic high five and chest bump. The debate rages over the effect of emotions on a team's fortunes, and I'll make no such claims, but I will claim that, win or lose, the team is a LOT more fun to watch when they're excited.

Saturday's game was a good time. I got to hang out with my high school buddy Alex, whom I haven't seen in a while. I broke out the Sasaki samurai headband, that was given away at a 2000 or 2001 game and has been in retirement since the 2001 season. The M's record in "headband games" is in the nieghborhood of 35-10 or so (I had an Excel file that contained the exact figure, since lost). As long as the headband remains intact, I'll be wearing it to every game I attend in the future. The Baseball Gods smile benevolently upon the headbanded fan.

Non-baseball bit: Go see Kill Bill vol. 2.

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Saturday, April 17, 2004

I'm going to tonight's game. If anyone wants to say hi, I'll be in section 387, row 4, seats 8-10. I'm the guy with the Johnny-O helmet.

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Last post until Sunday or Monday (probably):
2004 SA leaders have been updated (see left sidebar).

Let's hope the M's beat up on Texas this weekend.

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Dontrelle Willis Is the Next Babe Ruth 

If Dontrelle Willis gets a hit his next time up, he'll tie the Marlins club record with seven consecutive hits. Willis's next start is likely Tuesday, April 20, against Philadelphia.

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A Call To All Mariner Fans 

Think of all the things that have changed in your life this offseason. Maybe you bought a new coffee table or television. Switched brands of coffee (or, shame on you, cigarettes). Started going to the gym. Thanks to these changes, the Mariners are 1-7. Whatever part of your routine is different, change it back to the old way IMMEDIATELY! I, for example, am going to wear a pair of shoes that I last wore regularly in 2001 on a daily basis. And since Sox-1918 has seen, it its brief lifetime, only ONE MARINER VICTORY, there will be no posts for a couple of days. (Plus, I'm swamped at school, so there would probably be no posts anyway.)

The biggest change over recent years is that I will not be attending my first Mariner game of the season until Game 11, Saturday night against the Rangers. I'll be in the left field bleachers. If you want to say hi, come up to the bleachers and holler "IDAHO SUCKS!" You'll find me, guaranteed. Seriously, that's how my brother and I found eachother at Seahawks Stadium once.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Suggestion Box Is Full 

1-6 is a pretty miserable start. A lot more teams that start 1-6 eventually win 65 games than 95. Gump and Goat Boy need to right the Mariner ship, and fast. A few polite suggestions:

1) Send Soriano to Tacoma, or to the DL.

Soriano's obviously a shadow of his 2003 self, and clearly because he's still hurting. This team can't afford to allow a key reliever to mend on the fly like this. Once he gets his arm strength back, we can expect the lock-down reliever we once knew. Until then, free up a roster spot.

2) Do whatever it takes to dump Kevin Jarvis.

A trade would be great. For anything at all in return. I'd swap Jarvis for a catcher's mask in a heartbeat, just to get him off the books. If it's necessary to pick up some or even most of his salary, so be it.

3) Rearrange the outfield positions.

As USS Mariner has so eloquently illustrated, the Mariner defense, and particularly the outfield defense, has been killing them so far. While the personnel is not as strong as in years past, it still could be more effective with an easy rearrangement. Could someone tell me why our right fielder has a better arm, is faster, gets a better break on the ball, and is generally much more godlike than our center fielder? Move Ichiro to center, Winn to left, and Ibanez to right. Leave the large left-center gap at Safeco to be covered by the two best outfielders. This move should have been made as soon as Mike Cameron was let go.

4) Shop Ben Davis.

Let's face it. Potential Guy is never going to pan out. His highest career OPS is only 0.717 (2002, in only 228 at-bats). He's 27 already, so his Prime Years are dwindling. Before every team in the league is run by a DePosta or Beane, it's time to start shopping his Potential around the league. Getting a AAA catcher in return would be nice, but not necessary, since Pat Borders could be the interim backup.

5) Call up Luis Ugueto.

Yeah, you heard me. Aurilia's shown a good stick so far, but when the M's get a lead, they can't afford to lose it to a grounder that barely gets through the left side. As a late-game defensive replacement, Ugueto could be very handy. Additionally, he's a fantastic pinch-runner option.

6) Start unleashing Ichiro on the basepaths.

Much of Ichiro's 2001 value, and as a result the team's 2001 success, came via Ichiro's rampant basestealing. Where has that been in 2004? There have been numerous situations when a swiped bag would have changed the complexion of the game, and Ichiro seemed glued to first base. There's an old baseball adage that fits nicely: Speed Never Slumps.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Feeling Miserable 

Take at look at David Schoelfield's article on ESPN.com's Page 2, detailing the most miserable moment for each franchise over the past 25 years. The choice for the Mariners? Alfonzo Soriano's homer off Kazu in the 2001 ALCS. Certainly miserable, indeed (Red Fairly: "No question about it"). How about what Dave Justice did against Arthur Rhodes in 2000, though? Rhodes was arguably the toughest lefty reliever in the game that year, but Justice absolutley destroyed that ball. He hit it so well, you knew instantly that it was gone by a mile. There was none of that hope, like when someone hit one to center during the team's fifteen year run of Gold Glove-caliber center field play, that Mike Cameron could bring it back. I've never had hopes so quickly deflated in my life.

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Monday, April 12, 2004

A Lesson in Rooting For a Horrible Team 

I'm not advocating that anyone give up hope in the 2004 Mariners. There's still a LOT of baseball left to be played. But I realize that some readers may have already thrown in the towel, so to speak, on the M's this year. As a service to what I'm sure is a minority of readers, I would like to share my experiences rooting for another (for the most part) futile sporting institution, Washington State University. Cougar basketball, long in decline since the days of Kelvin Sampson, has been pretty pathetic in recent years. Things just haven't been the same since Blue Jays pitcher (and ex-Coug baller) Mark Hendrickson graduated. Attending Cougar basketball games, however, remains an enjoyable experience.

The key, I've found, to enjoying a Cougar game, and by analogy, the games of any lousy team, is to place undue emphasis on the performance of a randomly selected benchwarmer. On the rare occasion that your seat saver gets into the action, act like the championship hangs in the balance and that the only player that can determine its outcome is your guy. If your guy dunks, blocks a shot, gets a steal, whatever, go bananas. Yell. Scream. Wave your arms willy-nilly. Share awkward man-hugs with the guys you came to the game with. The score of the game doesn't matter, live it up, because your guy just made good.

The reason that I bring this up is that I've got an idea brewing. A Quinton McCracken fan club. We can call ourselves the McCracken Heads. Just imagine a group of eight or ten fans in a section wearing their McCracken Head t-shirts

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

and going nuts every time Q fields a routine fly ball or takes a pitch for a ball. Q ropes a sure double in BP? The McCracken Heads high five and buy a beer. Q flawlessly handles the ceremonial first pitch? The McCracken Heads rejoyce. Q gets a knock, a REAL, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS base knock, in the REAL game? The McCracken Heads are jumping out of their seats and being warned to cool it by the usher.

I'm still confident that the M's will pull together at least a superficially competitive season, so I'm not quite ready to call myself a McCracken Head yet. But for those of you that feel that all hope is lost, instead of brooding over how great it must be to be an Angels fan or an A's fan, consider my suggestion. I will even let you take my sharp t-shirt design, free of charge.

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New Design 

I spent this afternoon (and early evening) remodeling Sox-1918. What do you think?

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A Blog That Could Just As Easily Be About Life in Pullman, Judging From Its Title 

Check out a new blog (warning: contains F-bombs; I don't mind but you might), Beer and Whiskey. It's about the entire American League, with a disproportionately large portion of the coverage devoted to our M's. They've got some good insights about things like Jamie Moyer as a HOF candidate and the real reason we should hate the Red Sox. Plus some good "baseball player looks like celebrity" calls, a hobby in which I myself dabble occasionally.

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If Tomorrow's an Off Day, Give It Your Best Shot Today 

Just a quick thought before I retire for the night:

With an off day Monday, why was Kevin Jarvis even in uniform? Whose arm are the Mariners saving? I've always wondered why, on the day before a scheduled day off, managers rely on anyone less than their top-shelf relief pitchers. Same goes for position players. I recognize that Cabrera was a platoon replacement for Olerud today, starting at first with the lefty Mulder taking the ball for the A's. That's fine. I remember a Sunday afternoon game in 2001, though, that my uncle (a baseball coach himself, Olympia Mariner) drove all the way over from Pomeroy to see. We sat in right field, about the 15th row or so. Prime spot from which to watch the phenom Ichiro operate. Who's starting in right that day, with an off day the following day? You guessed it, John Mabry. My uncle was understandably a wee bit disappointed.

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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Willie Bloomquist, A Modern-Day Ty Cobb, and Other Thoughts 

Bloomquist scored on a hot ground ball in the 9th right to Oakland second baseman Marco Scutaro with the infield drawn in, sliding around the tag of the Oakland catcher. On the radio, Red Fairly (Niehaus must have been using the head or something) sounded disappointed that Willie was even attempting to score on the play, then shocked that it actually worked. Something like "Hot shot to second, throw to the plate is... NOT IN TIME!" A gutsy play; as Takashi would say, "Marbles!"

The Mariners got a lot of breaks in this game. If anybody not named Eric Karros was manning first base late in the game for the A's, they probably would have lost. He was unable to handle a throw in the dirt to start the rally, and it sounded like Ichiro's single could have been handled (in fairness, I didn't see the play). Luck asisde, this bunch deserved to win one. It sounded like some players vented a little bit of their frustrations, namely Boone and Aurilia getting upset at a few called strikes, and maybe they'll string together a couple of wins now.

Hendu said during the broadcast that Speizio feels great and was swinging a bat today. The sooner he's back, the better. I still can't stand him, but this team really needs him in the lineup. Speak of the devil, as I wrote that, the radio aired that terrible "Hey now!" M's ad where the announcer introduces and welcomes Scott Spiezio. Whoa.

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Fox Sports Northwest Doubleheader 

After the M's game, FSNW is showing the UW-WSU baseball game from Seattle. Both teams are very good, which doesn't happen too often. A couple of the Cougs should be drafted when they're done at Wazzu, hopefully joining the likes of Scott Hatteberg, Rob Ramsay, Aaron Sele, and John Olerud (among many others) as ex-Coug big leaguers. The Huskies probably have a few guys who can play a little as well, but does anyone really care?

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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Baseball's Version of "Single White Female" 

Much like Jennifer Jason Leigh couldn't hold a candle to Bridget Fonda, Michael Tucker pales in comparison to Ken Griffey, and now Barry Bonds. Strangely enough, when Tucker was with the Cubs, he didn't evolve into a Sammy Sosa clone. I guess his imitations are limited to lefty sluggers.

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Funniest Thing I've Seen so Far This Year 

Hey, does anyone else remember when Michael Tucker was batting second in front of Griffey with the Reds? For those who don't, as the season wore on, Tucker slowly assumed the whole Griffey persona. He copied Griffey's batting stance, his pre-swing rituals, copied his swing--it was kind of creepy actually.

Well, Tucker is batting in front of Barry Bonds now, and I'm delighted to report that he seems to be doing the exact same thing with his new Hall of Fame protection! He's got the body armor, he now does Barry's pre-swing ritual, and almost has Barry's stance down. He's far from having Barry's swing, but by the end of the year, who knows?

I want to see Michael Tucker strike out looking, then walk back the the dugout shaking his head with his lips pursed. Then I want to see Barry punch him in the stomach.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Heard on the Mariner Post-Game Show 

From tonight's call-in post-game show on the radio with Mike Blowers and Tom Glasgow:

Ed from Edmonds: "I was wondering why Ibanez was batting left handed against a left-handed pitcher."

Blowers: "Ibanez bats left-handed against everyone. He's not a switch hitter."

Glasgow: "I guess we took care of that one."

The best part of this exchange, though, was Glasgow's seamless segue into a question for Blowers on experimenting with switch hitting. What a professional. He takes a ridiculously stupid question and turns it into something productive. And he did it in a way that left the caller feeling like he contributed to the discussion.

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Best Home Run Call Ever 

On the radio, Dave Niehaus, with Bret Boone batting, was describing Boone's previous time up, when Boone flipped his bat thinking he had hit a home run (he instead hit the base of the wall for a double). In the middle of the story, Boone absolutely jacked one, and without skipping a beat, Niehaus belted out, mid-sentence, "AND YOU CAN FLIP IT NOW!" It was something like, "Boy, Boone thought he had his first home run his last time up, so he flipped his bat, AND YOU CAN FLIP IT NOW!" Niehaus has to win the Ford Frick award sometime in the next couple of years.

8-5 M's. We've got a ballgame on our hands again.

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My Ten Dollar Radio 

I went to Goodwill in Moscow today and found a ten dollar radio, so now I can listen to the Mariner broadcasts out of the Colfax station. I'm beginning to regret that already. This is getting ugly (uglier, GA just went deep). I'm hearing Rick Rizzs too many times saying, "Ibanez on the run; can't get there." Hendu just said that Jarvis is warming up. I can't believe how overmatched the M's have been so far.

I'm not watching, I'm listening, so I have to take Hendu's word when he says that the Piniero's getting beat on good pitches. In today's Sports Weekly, there's an article about the Orioles, and in the bit on Sidney Ponson, Ponson says that the key to his improvement has been understanding that sometimes hitters hit good pitches, and that he doesn't let that get under his skin any more. Hopefully Piniero doesn't let this game get under his skin and bounces back next time out.

Randy Winn just doubled, then stole third. The M's are down by about ninety runs. Wake-up call to the rest of the team, I suppose.

Boone just knocked him in with a double. 8-1.

This is kind of fun, writing while the game's going on in the background. I'm going to have to do this more often. Base hit for Ibanez. Boone to third. Aurilia just roped a double, scoring Boone and Ibanez. 8-3, Angels. Maybe they'll at least wear out the bullpen a little bit for tomorrow.

Called strike three to Olerud. Without specifically saying so, I don't think Rick is too sure about the call. A Dan Wilson (broken-bat, bloop single) to left, and Aurilia scores. 8-4. Let's make a game out of this.

Bloomquist up now. Hacking at the first pitch. Discipline, of course, being Willie's forte. Down 0-2, Bloomie takes a close one. 1-2. Outside again, 2-2. With Ichiro on deck, it's a good time to work a walk. Swing and a miss. Inning over.

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ESPN Gamecast Needs an Update 

I'm following the White Sox-KC game via ESPN gamecast right now. Esteban Loaiza is pitching for the Sox (how is he not the Opening Day starter?). The photo down at the bottom shows him in a Toronto cap. He pitched for Chicago all of last year, and his photo hasn't been updated yet! His player page on ESPN.com, sure enough, shown him proudly sporting the black and white of the southsiders. I've noticed that this happens a lot on Gamecast. Seems easy enough to fix, but what do I know?

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A Couple of Things About Yesterday's Game 

Rich Aurilia blew a couple of well-documented plays that we won't rehash here. Isolated lapses like we saw in the opener don't bother me so much. Ozzie Smith made errors. What worries me the most is one play -- Eckstein's base hit to open the game. He hit a pretty hard ground ball up the middle, but it took a big skip off the pitcher's mound and hung in the air for a moment before scooting just past the outstretched glove of Aurilia into center field. It seemed, in my opinion, like a play Carlos Guillen used to make all the time, the one where he reaches to his left, spins, and fires a "strike" to Olerud to get the runner by a step. If I'm right about this (time will tell), and Aurilia lets a ball go through that Carlos would have had every game or two, he REALLY, REALLY hurts the team. To make up for an extra hit every other game, he'd have to hit over .400. I hope I'm wrong about his range, or that I'm at least greatly exaggerating his shortcoming.

One other thing: within 90 seconds of being introduced at the beginning of the broadcast, Red Fairly used some variation of the phrases "no question" or "without a question" four different times. I counted and timed them. All that was sandwiched around a great anecdote about playing opening day in Montreal, where the "field was white (with snow), but we still played!" Tell us another story about the war, Grandpa!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I've Never Seen Kevin Jarvis and Giovanni Carerra In the Same Place At the Same Time 

Do we have proof that Giovanni Carerra and Kevin Jarvis are indeed different men? Until I see hard evidence, I'll operate under the assumption that the two personalities belong to one man.

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Bret Boone just about ate it coming out of the tunnel for pre-game introductions. Priceless.

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Still Awaiting The First "Beer Dispensing Helmet" of 2004 

The real Opening Day gave us the first two Hat Tricks (3 strikeouts in a game by one hitter) of the 2004 season (Matt LeCroy, Twins, and Jose Valentin, White Sox), and even bore witness to our first Golden Sombrero (four whiffs in a game), accomplished by certified lefty-masher (sarcasm warning) Jacque Jones of the Twins against lefty fireballer C.C. Sabathia.

The single-game strikeout-related honor I really live to see, though, is the fairly rare Beer Dispensing Helmet, when a batter strikes out five times in a single game. It happens a few times a year, typically by Jim Thome or Pat Burrel. The Beer Dispensing Helmet (or simply Beer Helmet if you're strapped for time) was coined several years ago by my brother Matt and myself, and is regular baseball parlance among my father, brother, and I. If there were a more efficient way of researching than looking at daily box scores, I would love to find career and single-season Beer Helmet leaders some day. If any reader has a suggestion of how to easily do this, please let me know.

Pullman odds for the first Beer Helmet of the 2004 season:

Jim Thome, 2:1
Pat Burrel, 3.5:1
Richie Sexson, 6:1
Jason Giambi, 6.5:1
Jose Hernandez, 7.5:1
Carlos Pena, 10:1
Jeromy Bernitz, 10:1
Sammy Sosa, 15:1
Rest of Field, 3.5:1

Odds published for entertainment purposes only. Gambling on baseball is illegal in Pullman, WA.

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The Blogosphere Speaks 

Many thanks to Peter White at Mariner Musings for putting together a very interesting poll of the M's blogosphere (the world's foremost experts on your Seattle Mariners). The win predictions ranged from a low of 82 games (Dead Reckoning's Mike Sugimoto) to a high of 98 games (Bavasi Stinks - Farmer's Blog's David Corcoran). My prediction was 93 games. Assuming that as a group we're dead on, the 2004 Seattle Mariners will win, with 95% confidence, between 87 and 91 games. It has been written.

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Ladies And Gentlemen, Put Your Hands Together For... 

...Frinklin Speaks! It's a blog mostly dedicated to the M's, with plenty of other non-baseball topics as well. Check out his Dante's Inferno Test link. Welcome to the blogosphere.

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Monday, April 05, 2004

A Thought On The Oakland-Texas Game 

In the bottom of the fifth, Bobby Kielty led off with a double for the A's. Eric Chavez batted next, and made a productive groundout to second, moving Kielty to third. Situational hitting like Chavez displayed is often criticized as a waste of an out, and in many instances it very well could be, such as with a sacrifice bunt with no outs to move a runner from first to second. I think the hit-to-the-right-side approach to move a runner over is very worthwhile, however. For one, it's relatively easy to accomplish the goal -- advancing the runner to a better scoring position -- particularly for a left-handed hitter. All he's got to do is pull the ball, which for many lefties comes naturally. Unlike a sacrifice bunt, though, where the offense is giving away an out, hitting the ball to the right side leaves a reasonably high percentage that the ball will find a hole somewhere for a hit. In other words, the worst-case scenario is still positive, and the best-case scenario can lead to a big inning. This is one example where the "old-school" of baseball thinking gets it right.

By the way, the next hitter, Jermaine Dye, shot a grounder through the drawn-in Ranger infield, scoring Kielty and putting the A's ahead 3-2.

One study I'd like to see is the percentage of balls hit to the right side with a man on second and no outs that fall for hits. Another I'd like to see is how often a drawn-in infield backfires.

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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Milton Bradley Plays For the Dodgers Now 

Looks like we can close the book on that one.

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A Brief Bit on Milton Bradley 

Milton Bradley missed the last six weeks of the 2003 season with a back injury. Certainly something to consider when looking at trade possibilities.

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As Promised, The Five Flukiest Home Run Seasons Ever 

As a reminder to everyone, these rankings are based on Fluke Factor, which is defined as a player's career high single-season home run total divided by his second-highest single-season home run total.

And now, the man whose name is synonymous with Fluke Factor:

#5, Brady Anderson

When I came up with the idea to rank fluky home run years, two men immediately came to mind: Brady Anderson and former Mariner Dale Sveum. Sveum, sadly, did not post a thirty home run season to qualify for consideration for the list (his career high was 25, posted in 1987, a notoriously fluky home run year league-wide). Anderson, on the other hand, blew thirty out of the water with his 50 home run 1996 campaign. He only eclipsed twenty two other times, with 24 in 1999 and 21 in 1992.

Anderson will forever be remembered for the most unlikely 50 home run season ever, but we should be careful to note that he was a pretty good all-around ballplayer. Before 1996 is dismissed for the effects of lefty-friendly Camden yards, consider that in his historic 1996 season, he hit 31 homers ON THE ROAD, away from Camden Yards. Additionally, he holds the Major League record for stolen base percentage in a season (for players with at least 25 attempts), going 31 for 32 in 1994. A good fielder, Anderson made an art of robbing home runs over the short outfield fence in Baltimore. And, for what it's worth, he's 14th on the all-time hit by pitch list, with 154. He had always been a streaky hitter who could never quite put it all together for a full season. In Anderson's own words, "I always had the ability to hit home runs for two or three weeks at a time, but I never sustained it like this year. When you do, the homers really add up."
Career high: 50 HR. 2nd Best: 24 HR. FF: 2.08

#4, Willard Marshall

Willard Marshall is an interesting case. Although his numbers earn him the #4 spot on this list, it can be argued that the era in which he played, from 1942 to 1955, contributed more to his high Fluke Factor than Marshall's actual performance. Case in point: Marshall's 11 home runs in 1942 and 13 home runs in 1946 both placed tenth-best in the National League. In 1947, when Marshall hit 36 homers, only six totals combined from the 1942 and 1946 seasons would have cracked the top ten. So, his adjusted numbers are fairly consistent. Nonetheless, Fluke Factor in an unqualified number, and Marshall's 1947 season was good for fourth all-time.
Career high: 36 HR. 2nd best: 17 HR. FF: 2.12

#3: Rick Wilkins

I had no idea that Rick Wilkins had ever played for the Mariners until I saw the indisputable evidence on his page at Baseball Reference:
1998 31 SEA AL
Who knew? Wilkins appeared in 19 games for the M's, playing first base, catcher, and designated hitter. I vaguely remember him from the beginning of his career, when he played for the Cubs, although he played during the "dark ages" of my Cubs following. Between 1992 and 1996 the degree to which I watched the Cubs took a major hit, during which time I had left Ketchikan, Alaska (where WGN was the only regular baseball broadcast), but not yet moved to Chicago in 1996. So I don't know much about Rick Wilkins, nor does Baseball Library or Google. Sorry.
Career high: 30 HR. 2nd best: 14 HR. FF: 2.14

#2, Terry Steinbach

I could never stand Terry Steinbach growing up. Playing for Oakland during the Bash Brothers era certainly didn't help his cause. Steinbach, or "Steiny" as he liked to be called, was, against my wishes, still a productive Major League catcher. He was a three-time All-Star (1998, 1989, and 1993), taking home the All-Star Game MVP honor in 1988. Furthermore, he was an important part of Oakland's 1989 World Series championship team (and their 1990 team that got spanked by Lou Piniella's Reds, heh heh). It gives me great pleasure to see him at #2 on this list.
Career high: 35 HR. 2nd best: 16 HR. FF: 2.19

Drumroll, please:

#1: Davey Johnson

I remember Davey Johnson only as the manager of the 1986 Mets team that broke the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere. It turns out that Davey Johnson was a pretty good little infielder to boot. He was an All-Star in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. He won the Gold Glove at second base in 1969, 1970, and 1971. And he shocked everyone by clubbing 43 homers in 1973 for the Atlanta Braves. Shockingly, Bret Boone (whose Baseball Reference page is sponsored by Just Another Mariners Blog, incidentally) is not in the top ten in similarity score to Johnson.
Career high: 43 HR. 2nd best: 18 HR. FF: 2.39

There you have it. The ten greatest power surges of all time. With home run totals getting more ridiculous by the year, expect to see a steady influx of new names into the list. If Ichiro manages a mere 24 home runs in 2004, for example, he'd take the #10 position. Here's hoping he does.

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Saturday, April 03, 2004

I Am So Smart! S-M-R-T! I Mean S-M-A-R-T! 

With Connecticut's impressive comeback victory, I've clinched first place in S + B's ESPN.com tournament pool. I wish I'd have joined a money pool this year. The one year I actually nail it. Oh well.

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Lincoln Needs The Boot 

Regardless of what you think about putting Junior back in a Mariners uniform, Howard Lincoln's attitude about the situation has to irk you, at least a little. Steve Kelley reports in the Times that no matter how much Cincinnati offered to sweeten the deal, the trade would only take place, according to Howard the Duck, "over (Lincoln's own) dead body." What a hypocrite. How many times has a popular player been traded with Lincoln and others responding that it was simply a difficult "business decision" done "in the best interests of the ballclub" or other such garbage? In this case, a HUGELY popular player is on the market, and instead of dismissing the trade as being an imprudent baseball descision, we hear that Howie doesn't get along with Griffey (does he get along with anybody? If you get along personally with Howard Lincoln, please email me to let me know.) because of some dispute FOUR YEARS AGO. Tell me you don't think he'd be a better option in center than Randy Winn. Tell me that he costs too much money. Just don't feed me any more lines about how you had a tiff a few years ago and don't want anything to do with Ken Griffey Junior. Mariners management doesn't need to make a habit of burning bridges.

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Bingbong Is Dead, But His Memory Lives On 

Here's the Bingbong story, from ESPN's Jayson Stark's May 18, 2001 "Wild Pitches" column. Basically, Schilling needlessly got one of Glanville's video game characters killed. Glanville later hit two home runs against Schilling in the pitcher's first game against the Phillies since his trade to the D-Backs. Glanville's description of the impressive feat?
"I vowed revenge on the soul of Bingbong," Glanville said, "for the negligent actions of Cylc."
Read the article for further Doug Glanville hilarity.

Glanville's consistently put great quotes and stories in the papers and online media since he's been in the big leagues. On a slow news day, I might just compile a list, maybe put it on the sidebar or something.

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Friday, April 02, 2004

Doug Glanville Is One Of Us... 

...if you, like me, consider yourself yourself a science geek, that is. Glanville spent a night stargazing during Spring Training in Florida recently, and writes about the experience for ESPN.com. Ever since reading the Bing-Bong story (it's a role-playing game anecdote featuring Glanville and Curt Schilling) in 2001, I've eagerly anticipated reading further stories of Glanville's geekdom. Sox-1918 HOF canidate? You betcha.

As soon as I find it (if it still exists online), I'll link to the Glanville/Schilling story.

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Milton Bradley? Are the Brothers Parker Available As Well? 

The 2004 Seattle Mariners starting outfield, with the addition of Bradley, would be:

LF Raul Ibanez
CF Milton Bradley
RF Ichiro

I think it's safe to say that that's the best All-Name outfield in baseball. Of course, we'd be breaking up the reigning All-Name outfield champions, separating Bradley from Coco Crisp.

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

The Ten Flukiest Home Run Seasons... 

...as determined by Fluke Factor (FF). FF is defined as the player's career high home run total divided by his second highest home run total. For example, Edgar Martinez's career high is 37 home runs, posted in 2000 (by a RIGHTY at SAFECO!). His second highest total is 29 (in both 1995 and 1998), giving Edgar a FF of 37/29 = 1.28. The top 10 all time (among players with career highs of at least 30 home runs):

#10: Luis Gonzalez

As I'm sure you remember, everything went right for Luis Gonzalez in 2001. 57 home runs. 1.117 OPS. And lest we all forget, his floater in game seven of the 2001 World Series was more than Derek Jeter and his 3.81 Range Factor could handle, giving Gonzo's D-Backs the crown.

If Gonzo ever hits as many as 32 home runs in a season (which I suspect he'll do soon), he'll be off this list. However, his numbers have earned him the Ten Spot:
Career high: 57 HR. 2nd best: 31 HR. FF: 1.84

#9 (tie): Fernando Tatis and Phil Plantier

Fernando Tatis will have a permanent place in the record books with his historic two-grand-slam inning on April 23, 1999. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I thought he was going to be great. If he stays healthy for a whole season, Tatis might hit the 19 home runs he'd need to be off the list.

Phil Plantier is a player I couldn't stand from day one. It's that uppercut swing of his that got to me. I guess it's no surprise that I also can't stand Adam Kennedy. On an unrelated note, a buddy of mine once claimed to have slept with Plantier's girlfriend at the time. The claim, of course, remains unsubstantiated.
Both players: Career high: 34 HR. Second best: 18 HR. FF: 1.89

#7: Bob Cerv

I had never heard of Bob Cerv until tonight. Here's what I could find out briefly (courtesy of Google and the King County Library System.

Cerv hit 38 home runs for the 1958 Kansas City Athletics. He was an All-Star and finished fourth in the AL MVP voting (and played with his broken jaw wired shut for a month). His biggest claim to fame, though, was the job his work as a technical advisor on the film "61*" about the 1961 home run race. Also, in the wacky records division, he, with teammate Elston Howard, on July 23, 1955 became the first duo to hit back-to-back, pinch-hit home runs.
Career high: 38 HR. 2nd best: 20 HR. FF: 1.90

#6: George Crowe

George Crowe is a somewhat dubious selection to this list. A former Negro Leaguer (and NBL basketball player), Crowe did not make his "Major League" debut until the age of 31, in 1952. He was an All-Star first baseman for the 1958 Reds, then he was traded to the Cardinals, where he sat behind Stan Musial. Unfortunately, outside circumstances cost Crowe a chance to put together a good career. When given the opportunity, though, Crowe excelled.
Career high: 31 HR. Second best: 15 HR. FF: 2.07

There's the first half. Check again tomorrow for Nos. 1-5. Hint: the inspiration for this list (it begins with a "B" and ends with a "rady Anderson" will take his place among the "immortals" soon.

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2004 Up-To-The-Minute Suck Ass and CSPAN Leaders 

Player, Team, SA:

1. Jorge Posada, NYY, 4
1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 4
3. Rocco Baldelli, TB, 2
3. Tony Clark, NYY, 2
3. Aubrey Huff, TB, 2
3. Julio Lugo, TB, 2
9 players tied, 1

Player, Team, CSPAN (3 PA/G to qualify):

1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 2.000
1. Rocco Baldelli, TB, 2.000
3. Julio Lugo, TB, 1.000
4. Aubrey Huff, TB, 0.667
5. Jorge Posada, NYY, 0.571
6. Carl Crawford, TB, 0.500
7. Derek Jeter, NYY, 0.333
7. Damian Rolls, TB, 0.333
9. Hideki Matsui, NYY, 0.143
9. Jose Cruz Jr., TB, 0.143

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